Sunday, May 08, 2011

You need social media--even if you think you don't

I had a lengthy conversation yesterday with @pathunstrum, a writer I've known for some time, about social media. (He blogs regularly on the LW.) Basically, my argument was, I don't have the time commitment to be on Twitter or even Facebook every day promoting my book. I do what I can, but my efforts there aren't having much effect. This, to me, is discouraging.

A few short years ago, the advice to writers was this: "Pay your dues. Hone your craft. Learn how to write a query letter and get an agent. You'll get one if you try hard enough. And then, if you're REALLY lucky, you'll get a publishing deal."

Now, the game has changed. To self-pub (which seems to be the way things are going) you need to not only do all the book production yourself (get betas, a proofreader, cover, upload, etc), but you must maintain a constant presence on social media. It's exhausting, and sometimes it feels like I'm going nowhere. So my question to him was: am I going anywhere?

Pat pointed out things I could do (spend ten minutes a day on Twitter) and things I am doing right (working on my next book). And he pointed out that luck favors the diligent. Maybe you put in years of effort, and get nowhere. And then one day the scale just tips in your favor, and you get the readers you were trying to reach.

I'm not one of those people who has the major plans. "Okay, this November I'll reach 2,000 sales, and by next June I'll have 1,000 blog followers." I don't think that way. I think in terms of my writing, and the book I'm working on now, and what readers will enjoy. I try to write stories I would like to read, while working with the schedule I've got. I have a lot of plans for promotion that I think would be a lot of fun for readers, and go beyond Facebook pages and retweets. But those are a great launch pad to make people aware of them.

I've been following Kristen Lamb's #MyWANA hashtag on Twitter, and groups like that are a great way to find a lot of people on one topic. Sometimes Twitter seems very insular (unless you go searching, you only see tweets from people you're following), but the more I poke around on Twitter, the more I see there are a lot of opportunities for writers to connect and get their voice heard.

I have seen a lot of writers burn out on social media, but I think they're approaching it from the wrong perspective. It's not a tool to gain sales, or a roadblock you have to conquer. It's just a way to be accessible and learn more from other people. You can have fun with it, or you can treat it as a business--whichever way you want to go.

I have been busy on other projects lately, but I'm going to invest a little more time into social media. As Pat says, "You want to be standing on the platform when the train comes in."

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